After numerous fast food worker strikes, debates on the nation’s minimum wage, and stories about companies making as much in profits as their employees receive in government aid, it looks like SeaTac will be raising its minimum wage. Latest results show SeaTac voters narrowly passing Proposition 1 in this week’s election. If the results hold, starting January 1, 2014, the minimum wage in SeaTac will become $15 an hour. The new minimum wage will be more than double the national minimum wage and significantly higher than the state’s minimum wage. While the minimum wage in the rest of the state will not be affected by this increase, the increase could be a sign of things to come.
CNN Money’s post-election story notes SeaTac is not the only place in the country that will be raising the minimum wage. California has already passed legislation that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $9 in July and to $10 by 2016. San Francisco’s minimum wage is already $10.55 and will increase to $10.74 beginning next year. New Jersey will also see an increase from the federal minimum wage level of $7.25 to $8.25. After these successful minimum wage initiatives, even Congress is proposing an increase in the federal standards. In fact, the New York Times reports that the President backs the $10 federal minimum wage proposed under the Fair Minimum Wage Act.
Proposition 1 and the Fair Minimum Wage Act
Like the San Francisco minimum wage law and the proposed Fair Minimum Wage Act (FMWA), Proposition 1 ties the minimum wage to inflation. So while the laws set the base, like $15 that amount would increase if annual inflation rates increase over time. The laws seem to have similar targets, but different methods of approach. FMWA would increase the minimum wage in 95 cent increments over two years to $10.10 in 2015. It would also increase the wages for tipped workers, like waiters, who earn the majority of the income on tips. The current federal minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour. Fortunately for Washington tipped workers, the state’s minimum wage laws apply across the board and include them.
Some of the key features of Proposition 1 that go beyond the state’s minimum wage law are:
-Minimum wage increase to $15/hour for retail and hospitality workers.
-Paid sick and safe time leave (1 hour for every 40 hours worked).
-Employees get to keep the tips they earn.
-Part-time workers must be offered more hours before an employer can hire an outside worker.
-Small businesses are exempt from this law (for instance retail stores with fewer than 10 employees).
The proposition also requires that a regulatory system be designed to monitor and make sure the new laws are enforced, which could make rollout of the new provisions a bit bumpy. Hopefully, the city and state already have a framework in place for monitoring the already existing wage and sick leave laws.
Even with an increased focus on employers and wages, wage concerns are still serious issues. If you feel you have suffered from wage theft contact an experienced employment law attorney.